Archaeology, radiocarbon and dietary stable isotopes: novel approaches to 14C dating of Baltic archaeological material

Duration of the project

01.03.2021. - 30.11.2021.

Countries and institutions involved in the project

University of Tartu
Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology (ZSBA)
Christian-Albrecht University of Kiel

Project Manager

PhD Ester Oras

Achieved aim(s) of the project

1)  Transfer of knowledge and the development of skills on the (re)use of AMS radiocarbon dating results and their interpretation among Estonian research community, incl. coverage of novel analytical methods (quantitative palaeodiet reconstruction, reservoir offset estimation and statistical modelling of calibrated dates).

2) Critical evaluation of previously obtained 14C dates from Estonian Bronze and Stone Age material (case study).

3) Additional data gathering for case study: conducted new 14C dating of the material and dietary stable isotope analysis covering C and N isotopes, plus developing and testing novel S isotope analysis at the UT.

4) Dissemination: A) A dedicated research article on re-use of legacy 14C dates based on a case study (manuscript preparation in progress); B) preliminary results were presented at international conferences and seminars held at Tartu (6 and 8 Oct 2021 by J. Meadows) and Kiel (18 Oct 2021 by Ester Oras and Mari Tõrv).

Main activities and venues

1) Presentation at the international conference: European Association of Archaeologists meeting organized as a virtual conference (8‒11 Sept 2021, Kiel; Mari Tõrv)

2) John Meadows’ seminar as Laboratory Archaeology Group meeting “Dating the spread of pottery across north-eastern Europe: legacy radiocarbon dates versus new dates from the INDUCE project” in Tartu (speaker John Meadows; 6th Oct 2021)

3) John Meadows’ workshop for researchers and students from UT: New OxCal calibration programme and statistical modelling with radiocarbon dates (“Radiocarbon dating ‒ from selecting samples to statistical modelling”) in Tartu (speaker John Meadows; 8th Oct 2021)

4) Research visit to CAU by Mari Tõrv and Ester Oras to acquire new skills of combined dietary stable isotope analysis (δ13C, δ15N and δ34S) and 14C dating analysis and collaboration advancements with CAU Cluster of Excellence ROOTS, esp. relating to ancient dietary analysis in Kiel (17‒22 Oct 2021)

5) Mari Tõrv and John Meadows participation at a workshop at ZBSA about Danish Mesolithic-Neolithic human remains as experts on radiocarbon dating and hunter-gatherer mortuary practices (21 Oct 2021). The aim of the workshop was to brainstorm on future joint research projects on transition to Neolithic in the context of Denmark and N Germany (analysis types: pathogens, stable isotope analysis, AMS, and reconstruction of mortuary practices).

Direct and indirect target group

Direct: 42 people

Indirect: Ca. 100 people (people participating at the seminars both Tartu and Kiel, and EAA conference, plus further transfer of knowledge by participants in their ongoing projects and working group)